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Florida group sues world’s second largest chicken producer

PHOTO: Yellowstone River
PHOTO: Yellowstone River(KMVT)
Published: Mar. 9, 2017 at 7:38 AM EST
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By: WCTV Eyewitness News

March 9, 2017

LIVE OAK, Fla. (WCTV) -- Environmental groups are filing a federal lawsuit against Pilgrim's Pride, claiming its Live Oak plant repeatedly violated the Clean Water Act.

Environment Florida and the Sierra Club filed the suit at Jacksonville's Federal Courthouse Thursday.

They are accusing the chicken processing plant of polluting the Suwannee River.

They claim Pilgrim's Pride in Live Oak has violated clean water rules more than a thousand times since 2012, and some of the wastewater going into the Suwannee River has pollution levels three times higher than the legal limits.

"Here is one of the world's largest meat companies continually dumping pollution into one of Florida's most beautiful rivers," said Jennifer Rubiello, State Director of Environment Florida. "If our own state officials won't step in and protect the Suwannee, then Environment Florida will."

The group is seeking civil penalties and an order requiring the Live Oak plant to comply with its Clean Water Act permit.

A spokesman for Pilgrim's Pride said the company is taking the allegations seriously.

"In January 2017, we received a letter from Environment America announcing its intent to sue Pilgrim’s for alleged violation of permit conditions at the Pilgrim’s Live Oak, FL facility.,"Pilgrim's Pride spokesman Cameron Bruett said.

"We provided a detailed response which clarified that the alleged violations were in fact self-discovered by Pilgrim’s during routine sampling, duly reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and corrective measures were identified and implemented to address concerns. We are unaware of any current conditions that would merit this legal action, however we will review the complaint and respond appropriately,” Bruett said.

The Sierra Club has also given notice it intends to join the lawsuit against Pilgrim's Pride.

“The Suwannee River is one of Florida’s jewels,” said Whitey Markle, a longtime member of the Suwannee-St. John’s Group of the Sierra Club. “It is essential that we preserve this valuable river for the enjoyment of all Florida citizens and visitors to the Sunshine State.”